Joe Roark's Iron History
A Chronology Of Events In Bodybuilding
January, Part 2
Jan 18, 1892
On January 18 in 1892 Louis Cyr lifted his hallmark, famous dumbell loaded to 273.25 pounds, in London, at the Cafe Monica in the International Hall. He brought it to the shoulder with two hands and then using one hand pushed it overhead. He also performed some other strength feats on that occasion including a one finger lift of 535 pounds which was raised a few inches clear of the floor.
That dumbell is now located in the York Barbell Hall of Fame display area in York, PA, and is anchored to a shelf. It was generally said to weigh 202 pounds when empty, though 209 pounds is sometimes mentioned. Anyway, along with the Thomas Inch 172 pound dumbell and the Apollon railcar wheels, this dumbell bids for a fair claim as one of the most famous objects in the sport. Cyr was 28 years old when he performed the above feats.
[Some of the objects in the York Hall of Fame are displayed with no designation as to how much the bell weighs, which is, of course, the very first question that would come to the mind of a lifter.]
Jan 18, 1942
In Hastings, Nebraska on January 10, 1942 Gary Cleveland was born. By 1966 his total on the [then] three Olympic lifts was 1,015 and rated him seventh in the world in the 181 class! Earlier, Gary had won the Sr. Nats in 1964 and 1965.
Currently Gary publishes his own newsletter called: The Avian Movement Advocate, A publication of the Louis Cyr Institute of divine avian fluid movement. You'll keep your grip nimble trying to pick out the serious thoughts from among the other thoughts, but this is one fine, fun, well- written paper! With his two [imaginary?] sidekicks Brenda and Prycer, the trio goes ambling along the trail to Daftville.
There is also some serious content- a recent issue had a wonderful piece on Saxon. Write to 3200 64th Avenue North, Brooklyn Center, MN 55429-2237
Jan 18, 1947
Long Beach, California hosted the Mr. California contest and some recognizable names competed: Pepper Gomez, Bill Trumbo, Vic Nicoletti, and Charles Putnam. Putnam won, using the alias he was famous for: Eric Pedersen. Eric would later be tied on first ballot with Steve Reeves for the 1947 Mr. America title, with Reeves winning out and Pedersen going into the wrestling world. Eric died in 1990 from throat cancer.
Jan 18, 1977
What Steve Reeves' Hercules movies were to motivating the previous generation to train with weights, Pumping Iron was to its generation. Arnold Schwarzenegger starred as the movie opened on this date in New York City at the Plaza Theater, and the man who morphed muscle into mainstream meaning charmed his way into America's heart via this film. The small waistline he displayed is not evident in today's contest line-ups, nor is his charisma and impact.
Jan 19, 1893
Exactly one year and one day after Louis Cyr performed his one finger lift (see above), Michael Schart, a lifter from Munich, using only one middle finger, raised 606.25 lbs.
Jan 19, 1910
The improbable strongman marquee name of Max Sick was changed to simply 'Maxick'. Then in London on this date he exhibited some strength feats to show his ability.
He had challenged Thomas Inch to a contest in 1907 which brought no response from Inch; then Maxick reached England in October 1909, and wanted to contest against Inch for the middleweight title, but Inch, whose weight had inched upward used some delaying tactics, and when January 19th of 1910 arrived, Maxick decided to publicize his strength. He: cleaned and pressed, with body erect and heels together, 222 lbs. cleaned 240 lbs and then using the press style popular on the Continent, put it overhead. Cleaned 254 lbs and pressed it.
The latter two lifts would have qualified for world records had there been a weightlifting association in place to certify them, but that organization was not born until Jan 17, 1911. (BAWLA: The British Amateur Weight Lifters' Assoc.) He also got 302 lbs from floor to overhead, which was double his bodyweight.
Jan 20, 1900
David Webster shows the certificate given to Launceston Elliot for his lift on this day: "Right Hand Alone, of a Bar-bell Weighing 216-3/4 lbs. From the Floor to Arm's Stretch Above the Head at Sabinger's Riding School." see Dave's book Iron Game, page 25. Launceston was born in India in 1874 and died in Australia in 1930, where he is at rest in an unmarked grave.
Jan 20 or 22, 1871
Paul von Boeckman, known for his stupendous hand strength was born.
One of Irondom's missing artifacts is his Indian club, said to weigh between 80 and 85 pounds; it stood about 20 inches high and Willoughby describes: "Grasping this club at the small end with his hands close together (in baseball bat style), von Boeckman could readily lever it up and over his shoulder."
Sandow failed completely, Charles Atlas managed to tilt it slightly, and only Joe Nordquest was able to match von Boeckman and shoulder the club. Does anyone know what happened to this piece of iron history, or shall it remain on the list of missing marvels of strength lore?
Boeckman also claimed to be able to chin himself for three reps using only the middle finger of his right hand- a feat that David Webster, and perhaps any thinking person, disputes.
In a refreshing bit of honesty, he acknowledged "...that he could not bend a coin with his fingers, and moreover doubted if anyone else could really do so". Not too long ago on the Grip Board, a member marked a quarter (American .25 cent piece) and handed it to a man who claimed he could TEAR it in half. The coin handed back to the board member was NOT the same coin. Literally, a two-bit trick. Von Boeckman died November 7, 1944 (the same day Ken Patera was born)
- December 21, 1946 Mr. Pacific Coast, winner
- May 24, 1947 Mr. Pacific Coast winner
- June 29, 1947 Mr. America, winner
- March 13, 1948 Mr. USA, 2nd place to Clancy Ross
- Aug 16, 1948 Mr. World (aka Plus Bel Athlete du Monde), winner
- March 26, 1949 Mr. USA 3rd place [1. John Grimek 2. Clancy Ross]
- June 24, 1950 Mr. Universe, winner
Jan 21, 1862
For my money the strongest man, in terms of upper body strength, among the oldtimers was Louis Uni, whose stage name was Apollon. His enormous powers were geared so that even his casual attitude toward exerting them were staggering. And only when goaded would he switch to a higher gear; otherwise he would employ only enough threshold strength to win.
Particularly frightening was his hand strength. John Grun Marx, said to Apollon one day that only he (Marx) had been able to deadlift a specific bell off the floor with one hand. The bell weighed 226 pounds and had a handle 2.36" in diameter (the same diameter as Hermann Goerner's 330.60 pounds challenge barbell).
Upon being challenged. Apollon grabbed the bell and thrust it up and over his shoulder trying to snatch it, but lost his grip on the bell and it landed (not rolled) several feat behind him!
For those who believe that Apollon could not have lifted the Thomas Inch 172 dumbell, consider this: Apollon did the above on a bar of 2.36" diameter weighing 226 lbs. The Inch bell weighs 54 lbs LESS and has a handle of 2.38".
Apollon would have toyed with the Inch bell. But Inch was VERY careful regarding who he allowed among the super strong to try his challenge bell. But that's another story.
Apollon died October 18, 1928.
[For those who may not have seen the notice: It is planned to have a replica set of Apollon's railcar wheels in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday Feb 24, 2002 as part of the inaugural Strongman contest to be a part of the Arnold Classic. The non-revolving wheels weighed 365 pounds and have a bar/axle that is 1.93" in diameter.
I have seen 1.87" as the diameter in an old reference, but 1.93 is given more often. Only four men in history have taken the original wheels from the floor to overhead, but the original wheels have not been allowed to be touched in years, so this replica set will do as a test for modern strongmen.]
Jan 21, 1926
Steve Reeves born: Within and without the bodybuilding community of the previous century NO ONE was more famous than Steve Reeves, who was born January 21, 1926. Other bodybuilders may have had as much in-house impact, but when non-muscle segments are polled, Reeves was the man. Women swooned at the smile of his face, and men admired his form, muscular yet not overly so as was then the standard.
Pudgy Stockton tells me that she and Steve used to walk along Muscle Beach and crowds would actually follow them. Well, okay, that may not have had anything to do with Steve...since Pudgy (not at all a descriptive nickname) was strutting along.
Chris LeClaire, while researching his book on Reeves, stayed at the Reeves ranch for a few weeks, and chatted with Steve many times. Even Steve believed, as does his ongoing website SRIS, that Steve won the Mr. Western America contest. He did not. This is one of those odd encounters of the first-person kind, when checking with people who were there! They get it wrong sometimes.
Anyway, Steve won the Mr. Pacific Coast twice, as his mentor Ed Yarick ably pointed out at the time, and only after Steve's memory was refreshed with this fact did he acquiesce and Chris's book therefore became one of the very few sources where Steve's contest history is accurately listed. For the record here is Reeves complete contest summary:
[Joe M. points out the omission of Steve's Aug 13, 1948 second place finish to John Grimek at the Health & Strength sponsored Mr. Universe.
That was on Friday the 13th, then on Monday the 16th of August, Steve won the Mr. World. NABBA did not form until 1950, and Steve did in fact win their inaugural amateur Mr. U; their pro division began in 1952. I had all this in FLEX Feb 1999; perhaps I should refer to my own notes..., but thanks, Joe!]
Reeves became a star in the movies, most notably for his Hercules portrayal and he was similar to the Energizer Bunny's impact on the sport of bodybuilding, continuing with an occasional refresher mention in the bodybuilding magazines.
On May 1, 2000, Steve passed away.
Jan 21, 1994
Ira Hurley, whom some of you may recall as an official in bodybuilding circles in Illinois, died.
Jan 22, 1913
Sam Loprinzi was born in Portland, Oregon. On June 2, 1946 he won the Most Muscular award at the Mr. America. He ran a gym at 2414 SE 41st Avenue in Portland, which is shown in Strength & Health Nov 1962 p 19.
He also ran a gym at 414 SE Grand Avenue. He married Helen Smith in 1945 (her first look at Sam was when he appeared on the March 1945 cover of S&H)
Sam won the 1948 Mr. Pacific Coast.
Ironman ran a story on Sam in Feb 1963 and heralded that he was as good at 50 as he had been at age 25. By December 1979 he was wanting to retire and did so in 1980. He and Helen then took long walks together, and used swimming for exercise.
Sam left us on October 12, 1996, dying at home. He is buried in Williamette National Cemetery.
Jan 22, 1894
The strongman Batta performed a devisse of 220.25 lbs. (This is a test about a very rarely mentioned lift. I have seen it mentioned only twice.
In next week's column I will tell what it is, and will mention the names of those who write in via the 'comment' box below with the correct answer.)
Jan 23, 1949
In connection with a novice weightlifting meet in Chicago, Roy Hilligen(n) guest posed as about a dozen young men posed for the title of Jr. Mr. Illinois. Robbie Robinson (no not that one) finished out of the running, and the top three were:
- Jim Park
- Ed Zon
- Clarence Custer
Jan 24, 1885
Louis Vasseur was born in Roubaix, France, and his inaugural lifting competition was for the amateur French championships in 1907. Later at a bodyweight of 205 he was able to perform a right hand snatch with 209.5 lbs.
When he weighed 214 lbs he upped this to 220.5 lbs, a record that would stand until Charles Rigoulot rolled onto the scene more than a decade later. Even in 1925 at age 40 Louis could right hand snatch 213. His wrists were thick: 8", and his forearm 14.2" at 220 lbs bodyweight in 1913 in his prime as a professional.
As an aside keep in mind that forearms in those days were measured with the wrist straight in line with the forearm, no goosenecking of the wrist, nor bending at the elbow. So when comparing measurements to the oldtimers always use this method to be fair to them. A clenched (making a fist) hand was permitted. And, anyone, even today, who has a forearm measuring twice the wrist (measured this way) has a wonderful ratio.
Jan 25, 1890
James Walter Kennedy was born on December 12, 1860 and by the time a strength contest was organized on January 25 in 1890 by Richard K. Fox (founder of the publication THE POLICE GAZETTE") the 29 year-old Kennedy was living in Quincy, Illinois on the eastern banks of the Mississippi river.
Fox had a block of iron cast to weigh about 1,000 pounds, with two handles on top of the block at a height of 24" from the ground. This weight was termed a 'dumbell' and in fact weighed 1,030 pounds.
Strongmen from the USA and Canada converged in New York City 112 years ago today to try to win the championship, jewel- studded belt being given to the winner.
Kennedy lifted the weight by straddling it (hence the Kennedy lift) but Ajax, Duncan Ross, Charles Jefferson, and Sebastian Miller, the other competitors could not hoist it clear of the floor. Kennedy weighed 190 pounds, and stood 5'11" tall.
Jan 25, 1927
In September 1924, which was six months after Prof. Louis Attila had died, his daughter, Grace, was introduced to Sig Klein. On January 25, 1927 Sig & Grace were married in New York City.
The following year their daughter Jeanne was born. Just as Attila was one of the final remaining links to the strongmen of the previous century (he taught Sandow the bent press), so Sig became that link into the later sections of the 20th century, before he passed away on May 24, 1987.
Jan 25, 1959
If you were asked to name some bodybuilders from the 1950s and 1960s who, in addition to being well shaped, were also brutally strong, your list would have to include Chuck Sipes, who on January 25, 1959 won the IFBB Mr. America contest.
Jan 25, 1959
Female bodybuilder Laura Creavalle born.
Jan 26, 1894
Selig Whitman [stagename Ajax] on this date became a part of the 'strong arm of the law' by joining the New York City Police Dept. Before, he had toured with the famous boxer John L. Sullivan, and had wrestled and lifted as his part of the performance. Whitman came from Manchester, England, and became quite adept at pushing vehicles uphill as a demonstration of strength. Weighing only 162 pounds at 5'8.5" he once pushed a freight car weighing 27,400 pounds up a slight grade.
Jan 26, 1946
At Ocean Park Arena in Santa Monica, California, Vic Tanny presented a physical culture show. Offered as a door prize was a York Olympic barbell set (that is an idea which deserves re-instatement).
Bert Goodrich and George Redpath performed their hand balancing act, Tony Terlazzo weighing 148 got 5 reps in the press with 225. Bill Trumbo posed as did Art Bianco [Art White] and Gene Myers inside a specially built posing cabinet. (Years ago I spoke to Grena Trumbo, ex-wife of Bill, but she declined to allow an article to be written about her.)
The highlight of the show was an appearance by John Grimek, who had planned his routine for that cabinet, but an audience uproar of complaint caused it to be removed. Still, the 3,000 fans screamed approval of his posing and "John did his chest chain breaking with ease that pleased the crowd".
Jan 26, 1958
Fred Schutz won Mr. Chicago
Jan 27, 1902
George Hackenschmidt performed a hack lift with 187.4 pounds. This was about a year and a half after Hack had turned pro, and, keep in mind, the Hack Lift or Hack Squat that he performed was nothing like you see today.
His was a knee-bend on TOES, with hands TOUCHING behind the back, which, of course, prevents any forward leaning and turning the lift into some sort of bar behind legs deadlift. Hack on this occasion weighed 205 pounds, and Willoughby calculates this Hack Lift translates into a regular squat of about 500 pounds.
Jan 27, 1908
Walter Good was born, and with his brothers Bill and Harry teamed to be known as The Good Brothers. Even at age 76 Walter could use a pair of 75 pound dumbells for shrugs. He had been in the employ of the York Barbell Company for a while. Walter died on July 10, 2001.
Harry had passed away on July 22, 1998, so only Bill who will turn age 92 on May 14th, 2002 remains. He still works out! The famous bell that Bill Good hiplifted on each of his birthdays- doing one rep for each year of age- is now on display outside at a spring water company near Adamstown, PA.
Jan 27, 1940
Physique contests hit regular stride in the very late 1930s, and 62 years ago today several dozen contestants vied for the title of Mr. New York City, with Lud Shusterish taking the title at the Brooklyn Central YMCA. My records show him to have been age 17. [Lud I understand passed away in 2001; can anyone provide a specific date?]
Jan 28, 1891
On this date at the Royal Aquarium in London, Eugene Sandow presented a strength demonstration which included setting a personal best in the bent press of 273.25 lbs. Then he restrained two teams of horses trying to pull him in opposite directions, an impressive but non-measureable feat.
Jan 28, 1969
Wilfred J. Diamond was born in Liverpool, England in 1883 on November 29. He died January 28, 1969 after a lifetime of service to lifting. In 1933 he was elected to the presidency of BAWLA [British Amateur Weight Lifters' Assoc] and that year began writing his memories for the American magazine Strength & Health. He also wrote on other subjects such as BLOOD, SWEAT, and JACK DEMPSEY; and on religion. By the time he moved to Florida in the mid 1960s he had published eight books.
Around 1946 he switched from York to Weider for a few years, writing three part series on Thomas Inch and on Alexander Zass, and Jack Johnson. Ironman in March 1977 recounted the claim that Diamond had witnessed Sandow break a coin. If Diamond believed this, particularly Sandow having this ability, it lessens his reliability as an historian.
Jan 28, 1974
Joe Greenstein [The Mighty Atom] had married Rachael Leah Kaspersky in 1911. He was 18, she 16, and they enjoyed 63 years of marriage before Leah died on this date.
Jan 28, 1991
Charles A. Smith, editor for Joe Weider from 1950 to 1957, and worked on several of Joe's magazines. Those were the days when Joe also was publishing non-bodybuilding mags: boxing, wrestling, some mild girlie type mags named JEM and MONSIEUR- I have a couple of these mags and by today's standards they are prudish. Betty Brosmer (Joe's future wife) posed in some of the issues, though never topless.
There was one photo where Betty was presented as topless (in another publication), but the photographer later admitted he altered the photo by placing Betty's head atop some other lady's torso. Anyway Charles was food and beverage editor for these two mags. After Charles left Weider, he worked in law enforcement.
I spent a week as Charles' houseguest in the 1980s. He was then connected to the Todd-McLean Collection at Austin, Texas as a research assistant, where he would instantly know which clippings belonged where. So we would go to the Collection each morning, he would file, and I would file separate materials, and several hours would pass in this manner, then we would have an evening meal and return to his house, where I would ask him dozens of questions and he would display remarkable, instant recall and answer in detail.
After several pages of questions had been gone through this way, and I had nothing else prepared, he said, 'I thought you were going to ask me some questions!"
Smith in his day was a bull of a man, and even when I met him was thick armed and solid, and occasionally trained while sitting in his wheelchair, from which he would rise only to pivot into a vehicle or some other task.
Charles had, it seems, had regrets. He had left Weider and gone into law enforcement, and when bodybuilding became really popular and even hinted at becoming mainstream because of Arnold, Charles lamented, however quietly, that he was no longer in the hub, and missed the days of Weider. He felt left behind.
He had a collection of beer steins with depictions of weightlifters embossed on them. One had been a gift from Sig Klein, and Charles particularly treasured it because Sig seldom released one of his steins. After Charles passed, I lost track of his one daughter I knew (had never met the other daughter). Charles' wife had died many years before. So I have no notion of what happened to his books or his steins.
Terry Todd, who of course, manages the Todd-McLean Collection with his wife Jan, does not know what became of Charles' items, either. I suspect Charles would not have liked how all this turned out. He wanted his place in the history of the sport. It was he who urged Weider to get into the supplement business. Wonder how that idea ever panned out? He also convinced Weider to begin covering Olympic lifting at least on a small scale. Not a big deal? Try getting a weightlifting magazine to include bodybuilding.
Charles was British and was born on March 27, 1912. In my collection I have perhaps 300+ pages of correspondence from him, typed on his last-leg typewriter in a style that had to be interpreted as coming from a very skilled writer, which he most certainly was.
He was a fine man, albeit in some ways, an unhappy man, having lost his wife to cancer on Christmas day 1959, and, who, after a few days in the hospital, passed away Jan 28, 1991. But if you read Weider's magazines from the period when Charles was editor, you realize how skilled a man he was in the publishing business, and he delighted in Joe Weider acknowledging that by presenting Charles with the IFBB's Distinguished Service Award in 1989.
Jan 29, 1904
Joseph Curtis Hise, of Homer, Illinois became well known in lifting circles for popularizing high rep squatting for weight/muscle gains. His older brother William Frank Hise was born Jan 29, 1904 [Curt was born Aug 10, 1905]. William died April 25, 1985, and had stored the Jackson 1-A barbell set in his house for years after Joe died in 1972.
I bought the set from William's widow, and later traded it for an Inch replica dumbell. Not a wise decision because I could at least lift part of the barbell set...The 1-A set was precision plates-on-bar, no sloppy holes; beautiful craftsmanship, and Andy Jackson told me that he remembered making that particular set for Joe Hise in the early 1950s.
Jan 29, 1955
Jack King wins Mr. Tidewater
Jan 29, 1966
Boyer Coe wins Mr. Sooner
Jan 30, 1897
The St. Petersburg Athletic Assoc. was founded on this date in Russia by Count Ribeaupierre, and thus became that country's second such organization. The first, The St. Petersburg Amateur Weightlifting Club had been founded on Aug 10, 1885 by Dr. von Krajewski. Those who have David Webster's sterling book THE IRON GAME, please see pages 48-50 for many more details.
Jan 30, 1938
LeRoy Saba born. [sometimes LeeRoy] While still a teenager he won Jr. Mr. Oakland and Sr. Mr. Olympics in 1955. Took the Mr. Iron Man in 1958. In 1960 he won Most Muscular at the Jr. Mr. America. The last articles I have on file for Saba are: Ironman Jan 1961 his fave routines- by Leo Stern S&H March 1961 he models for a workout. He made cover appearances on: Muscle Builder Feb 1960; S&H Nov 1960 & May 1963; Ironman May 1961; Health & Strength Dec 15, 1961 Anyone know what became of LeRoy?
Jan 30, 1941
Joe Bednarski was born- no relation to Bob Bednarski. Joe became a pro wrestler.
Jan 30, 1965
A name often seen in the old mags, Tuny Monday, won Mr. Central State, and on the same day Von LaMon was first in the Mr. Bay Area.
Jan 30, 1966
Sergio Oliva won Mr. Chicagoland on the same day that fitness model Amy Fadhli was born, and two more opposite body-types cannot be found!
Jan 30, 1991
WBF [World Bodybuilding Federation] press conference at Plaza Hotel in NYC to announce the names of the 13 bodybuilders they had signed for their organization: Berry DeMey, Mike Christian, Gary Strydom, Mike Quinn, Jim Quinn, Troy Zuccolotto, Aaron Baker, Eddie Robinson, Danny Padilla, Tony Pearson, David Dearth, Vince Comerford, and Johnnie Morant. The WBF eventually held two contests, both won by Strydom, then faded away.
Jan 31, 1948
Who is judging the judges? In San Francisco on Jan 31, 1948 at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, the Pro Mr. America contest was staged, and then judged, rejudged, and rejudged. The first results were:
- Norman Marks
- Jimmy Payne
- Floyd Page
Fifteen minutes later, these results came forth:
- Norman Marks
- Floyd Page
- Jimmy Payne
Then after all but 17 spectators had left the auditorium:
- Floyd Page
- Norman Marks
- Jimmy Payne
Thus Floyd Page was declared the Pro Mr. America winner.
Jan 31, 1955
Steve Reeves, Mr. America, Mr. Universe, and age 29, married actress Sandra Smith, 18, in Sherman Oaks, CA. After a year and a half the divorce happened on Sep 4, 1956.
As promised from last week, here is the explanation for what is called a devisse: It is a stricter version of the bent press in which Batta managed 220.25 lbs, and Aston 209 lbs. The greater difficulty is to the manner in which the bell is brought to the shoulder.
The standard manners were: 1. Stand the bell on end, lean into the approximate center of the barbell grasping that center with one hand; the other hand may be used for the positioning, then cannot aid further, as the bell is sent overhead. 2. Clean, or Continental, the bell with two hands, but using only one hand for the overhead part of the lift. 3.
The device required that the bell be brought clean (could not touch the body on its upward travel) by ONE HAND to the shoulder and, of course, only one hand overhead, so the devisse was a 'one hand all the way' bent press. Obviously, someone such as Arthur Saxon could almost double his lift using method 1 as opposed to the devisse.
An aside, to use the term 'a Continental clean' is to display ignorance, in the same way as using the phrase 'a clean Continental'. The clean did not allow for bar contact during the movement from floor to shoulder. The Continental did allow such contact, even so far as briefly 'resting' the bell on top of a large belt buckle, or on the upper thighs, or other body sections.
The terms are therefore mutually exclusive. Therefore, there can be no such lift as a Continental device.
An appeal: If you know where any of the former great lifters/ bodybuilders are, and are at liberty to share that info, I would be grateful to know it. Or if you know where any of the former greats are buried... I recently visited the gravesites of Grimek, Hoffman, and Terpak, and have been thinking it would interesting to present a listing for those who travel in a given area to be aware of where respects could be paid. Thank you.
Reminder: corrections are welcome. I had Teegarden born on Jan 13 and another source says Jan 31; for one oldtimer there have been three death dates spanning a two week period. Sometimes the inscription on a tombstone can solve the problem.